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Journal ArticleDOI

A crisis of confidence: women coaches' responses to their engagement in resistance

04 Jul 2014-Sport Education and Society (Routledge)-Vol. 19, Iss: 5, pp 532-551

AbstractThis study centres upon the accounts of master women coaches based in the UK, exploring how they have individually experienced such acts of resistance as reaching the top of such a male dominated profession. By going beyond previous positivist feminist approaches to this focus of inquiry, I employ a feminist cultural studies framework to understand how the social construction of what it means to be a woman impacts women coaches' individual sense of self and confidence to lead. The discussions are based on semi-structured in-depth interviews with six senior national women coaches of team sports in the UK. The data highlight the success of masculine hegemony of coaching through documenting women's reluctance to advance their coaching career through a lack of self-belief and motivation as a consequence of their culturally and historically marginal position. The findings illustrate a pressing need for a revision of the dominant values inherent in professional sport in order to engage and retain potential wome...

Topics: Coaching (55%), Career development (50%)

Summary (2 min read)

Introduction

  • The number of collegiate men’s teams with a woman head coach remains near the same figure as it was in 1972 at approximately 3% (Acosta & Carpenter, 2012).
  • Statistics reveal that 82% of qualified coaches, i.e. coaches that hold a qualification in the sport they coach, are men (Sports Coach, 2011) and at the time of conducting the research, within the national squads of team sports within the UK, only nine teams had a woman head coach compared to 43 male head coaches.
  • Within this article, I explore the previous categoric and distributive research to understand their explanations for women’s position within coaching.
  • From an exploration of previous literature, this leads me into offering an alternative view for this research field, explaining the methodology adopted for the research.

Previous explanations for the Underrepresentation of Women in Coaching

  • Previous studies that have investigated women’s under-representation in sport have provided a variety of reasons to explain this dearth of women.
  • Yet, within the conclusions of such research, the authors have often conceded that social conditions or some form of systematic discrimination may be an influence rather than individual traits.
  • Overall, it was found that male and female athletes always rated the man coach as the same or more favourably than the woman coach (Parkhouse & Williams, 1986).
  • Women subsequently leave the profession because they lack control of the direction of their coaching (Knoppers, 1994).

The Need for an Alternative Theoretical Approach

  • The major criticism of much of the existing research related to women’s underrepresentation in coaching is the lack of socio-historical contextualisation to the research.
  • Therefore, a crucial element missing to such research is a thorough and critical engagement with power, and how cultural relations as well as orders are created and contested.
  • All interviews were taperecorded and analysed using the constant comparison method of data coding (Glaser & Strauss, 1967).
  • Such a technique is popular with feminist researchers who seek to ensure that their study is respectful towards and appreciative of the participants’ experiences (Olesen, 2000) and as an effective method of maintaining that the findings correspond with the experiences and perspectives of the participants (Bryman, 2004).
  • Secondly, I present the accounts of the participants that highlight how the cultural expectations of women in sport impacts women’s progression through coaching and how the male dominated culture of sport suffocates women’s desire to coach.

Self-identity: Confidence and Conflict

  • The agreement between the national women coaches was that many aspiring and developing women coaches cannot challenge the patriarchal control of coaching and sports leadership because they do not believe in themselves as leaders.
  • Such is the intricacy and complexity of historically gendered cultural expectations, that for women who want to become leaders in their sport “such firmly embedded expectations are difficult to overcome” (Miner, 1993, p. 44).
  • Such expectations are detrimental to women building their sense of self-efficacy as coaches to contest for more senior roles, as Ruth has observed amongst women coaches in her sport:.
  • Therefore, women have often learnt the role of subordinate and as Ferguson (1995, p. 377) contends, this “role can easily become self-perpetuating”, thus reinforcing their status.
  • Paradoxically, for the participants without children and / or partner, they were made to feel ‘abnormal’.

Discussion and Conclusion

  • This study reveals some of the responses from women coaches to the cultural expectations of femininity and the socially accepted role of being a woman.
  • What emerges from the research are women’s feelings of low self-confidence and reluctance to advance themselves, as well as bearing a burden of guilt when they do.
  • The oppression of women in sport, as the theory of hegemony informs us, is not achieved through overt forms of discrimination but rather more subtle, insidious power relations (Halford & Leonard, 2001).
  • Furthermore, women’s engagement in individual acts of resistance, such as the participants in this study, should be collected rather than solely examining episodic patterns of discrimination (Halford & Leonard, 2001).

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Citation:
Norman, L (2014) A crisis of confidence: Women coaches’ responses to their engagement
in resistance. Sport, Education and Society, 19 (5). 532 - 551. ISSN 1357-3322 DOI:
https://doi.org/10.1080/13573322.2012.689975
Link to Leeds Beckett Repository record:
https://eprints.leedsbeckett.ac.uk/id/eprint/1880/
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1
A Crises’ of Confidence: Women Coaches’ Responses to
their Engagement in Resistance
Author:
Leanne Norman
Author’s affiliation:
Carnegie Faculty
Leeds Metropolitan University
Headingley Campus
Headingley
Leeds
LS6 3QS
United Kingdom
Email: L.J.Norman@leedsmet.ac.uk

2
Abstract
This study centres upon the accounts of master women coaches based in the UK,
exploring how they have individually experienced such acts of resistance as reaching
the top of such a male dominated profession. By going beyond previous positivist
feminist approaches to this focus of inquiry, I employ a feminist cultural studies
framework to understand how the social construction of what it means to be a
woman impacts women coaches’ individual sense of self and confidence to lead.
The discussions are based upon semi-structured in-depth interviews with six senior
national women coaches of team sports in the UK. The data highlights the success
of masculine hegemony of coaching through documenting women’s reluctance to
advance their coaching career through a lack of self-belief and motivation as a
consequence of their culturally and historically marginal position. The findings
illustrate a pressing need for a revision of the dominant values inherent in
professional sport in order to engage and retain potential women leaders.
Key words: • Women • Resistance • Coaching • Culture • Hegemony

3
Introduction
The underrepresentation and status of women in coaching is a well-
documented and researched area (e.g. Acosta & Carpenter, 2012; Cunningham &
Sagas, 2002; Cunningham & Sagas, 2003a; Everhart & Chelladurai, 1998;
Kamphoff, Armentrout & Driska, 2010; Kane & Stangl, 1991; Kilty, 2006; Knoppers,
1994; Lowry & Lovett, 1997; Norman, 2008; Parks et al, 1995; Pastore, Inglis &
Danylchuk, 1996; Theberge, 1993), highlighting the paradoxical global popularity of
and participation in sport by women alongside the stagnation and even decline in the
number of women in sports leadership. For example, the most recent report in the
longitudinal research conducted by Acosta and Carpenter (2012) demonstrates that
while the number of women coaches in U.S. collegiate sport has risen slightly since
2011, the number is still considerably lower than the inception of Title IX in 1972. At
that time, 90% of women’s teams were coached by women. This figure now stands
at 42.9%. The stagnation in the number of women coaches is evident even more so
in the context of men’s sport. The number of collegiate men’s teams with a woman
head coach remains near the same figure as it was in 1972 at approximately 3%
(Acosta & Carpenter, 2012). In the UK, the current number of women coaches is
similarly low. Over the course of two coach tracking studies conducted by Sports
Coach UK, the statistics reveal an increase in the number of men in the profession,
up to 69% in 2011 compared to 62% in 2006 (Sports Coach UK, 2011). The picture
is even bleaker when specifically focusing upon the number of men and women that
are considered ‘qualified’ coaches and on the number of coaches at a high
performance level (i.e. at the ‘top end’ of the athletic pathway). For example,
statistics reveal that 82% of qualified coaches, i.e. coaches that hold a qualification
in the sport they coach, are men (Sports Coach, 2011) and at the time of conducting

4
the research, within the national squads of team sports within the UK, only nine
teams had a woman head coach compared to 43 male head coaches.
The research that has addressed women’s under-representation in the coaching
profession has often attempted to locate definitive reasons as to why there are so
few and even decreasing numbers of professional women coaches. On closer
examination of the majority of scholarship on the under-representation of women
coaches, utilising Dewar’s (1991) analysis of the research philosophies adopted in
research on gender and sport, it is evident that there are two distinct and dominant
ideological positions. One strand of research related to women in coaching is the
empirical investigation and quantification of sex differences in relation to ability and
behaviour, referred to as “categoric research” (Dewar, 1991, p.18). Examples of
explanations forwarded as to the under-representation of women coaches include
lower self-efficacy, less intention, desire and motivation to coach as well as higher
intent to leave the profession in women compared to men coaches. The second
prominent ideological position that dominates the literature related to women’s
absence in coaching is “distributive research” (Dewar, 1991, p. 18). Within such
frameworks, investigations take place into ‘technical’ issues and barriers, such as
opportunities to coach, in the pursuit of equality for all individuals on the assumption
that sport and coaching systems are meritocratic (Bryant & McElroy, 1997). Within
such liberal perspectives on gender and sport, power is conceptualised as belonging
to individuals who have it rather than the assumption of an underpinning system of
power relations (Halford & Leonard, 2001). Women’s unequal position in coaching is
perceived as a pattern of discrimination as a reflection of, what Halford and Leonard
(2001, p. 28) describe as, “multiple individual exercises of discrimination…rather
than a coordinated conspiracy”. Within this article, I explore the previous categoric

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Abstract: In shifting our gaze to the sociological impact of being in the minority, the purpose of this study was to substantiate a model of gendered social well-being to appraise women coaches’ circumstances, experiences and challenges as embedded within the social structures and relations of their profession. This is drawn on in-depth interviews with a sample of head women coaches within the UK. The findings demonstrate that personal lives, relationships, social and family commitments were sidelined by many of the participants in order to meet the expectations of being a (woman) coach. We locate these experiences in the organisational practices of high performance sport which hinder women coaches from having meaningful control over their lives. The complexities of identity are also revealed through the interplay of gender with (dis)ability, age and whiteness as evidence of hegemonic femininity within the coaching profession. Consequently, for many women, coaching is experienced as a ‘developmental dead-end’.

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Cites background or result from "A crisis of confidence: women coach..."

  • ...The finding of the present study builds on and updates previous work within this subject area that has shown that women coaches report feeling left out of (predominantly male) power networks, that the strength of the ‘old boys’ club is detrimental to women’s professional progression, and working relationships with male coaching colleagues are often strained (e.g. Allen and Shaw, 2013; Knoppers and Anthonissen, 2001; Lovett and Lowry, 1994; Norman, 2012)....

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  • ...…in which they feel that their contributions will be valued, recognised and developed, echoing a finding from earlier work in this subject area related to women coaches and leaving the profession (e.g. Cunningham and Sagas, 2003; Lovett and Lowry, 1997; Norman, 2012; Sagas and Ashley, 2001)....

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  • ...…male) power networks, that the strength of the ‘old boys’ club is detrimental to women’s professional progression, and working relationships with male coaching colleagues are often strained (e.g. Allen and Shaw, 2013; Knoppers and Anthonissen, 2001; Lovett and Lowry, 1994; Norman, 2012)....

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  • ...Other means of segregation include the sexualisation and trivialising of women as athletes and as coaches (e.g. Cooky et al., 2010; Cranmer et al., 2014; Norman, 2008, 2010, 2012)....

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  • ...…unequal ideas of coaching competence, lower self-confidence, poor working conditions and sexism interconnected with homophobia and racism (e.g. Allen and Shaw, 2013; Fielding-Lloyd and Mean, 2011; Kilty, 2006; LaVoi and Dutove, 2012; Norman, 2010, 2012; Rankin-Wright, 2015; Shaw and Slack, 2002)....

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Abstract: * Introduction The Players And The Stage * Men and Women of the Corporation: The Population * Industrial Supply Corporation: The Setting Roles And Images * Managers * Secretaries * Wives Structures And Processes * Opportunity * Power * Numbers: Minorities and Majorities Understanding The Action * Contributions to Theory: Structural Determinants of Behavior in Organizations * Contributions to Practice: Organizational Change, Affirmative Action, and the Quality of Work Life * Afterword to the 1993 Edition

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Abstract: This Special Issue is the result of the inaugural summit hosted by the Gallup Leadership Institute at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2004 on Authentic Leadership Development (ALD). We describe in this introduction to the special issue current thinking in this emerging field of research as well as questions and concerns. We begin by considering some of the environmental and organizational forces that may have triggered interest in describing and studying authentic leadership and its development. We then provide an overview of its contents, including the diverse theoretical and methodological perspectives presented, followed by a discussion of alternative conceptual foundations and definitions for the constructs of authenticity, authentic leaders, authentic leadership, and authentic leadership development. A detailed description of the components of authentic leadership theory is provided next. The similarities and defining features of authentic leadership theory in comparison to transformational, charismatic, servant and spiritual leadership perspectives are subsequently examined. We conclude by discussing the status of authentic leadership theory with respect to its purpose, construct definitions, historical foundations, consideration of context, relational/processual focus, attention to levels of analysis and temporality, along with a discussion of promising directions for future research.

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  • ...Kanter (1977) has described this as ‘homologous reproduction’ and this provided the basis of Cunningham and Sagas’ (2003b) study that found that those in powerful positions appoint similar individuals to themselves....

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